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Renting in NYC

When moving to most places in the U.S. people pick up the local paper or go to the web. They look at some ads and pick a couple of places to see, and then? simply rent an apartment. No big deal. Renting an apartment is a pretty civilized process in most cities. Throughout our country apartments have washers and dryers, garages or parking spaces, walk-in closets and plenty of storage room. Here in The Big Apple, a parking space in a garage usually costs as much as a one bedroom apartment in the rest of the country.

What do you do to make it as easy as possible? Here are a few hard and fast truths which you need to keep in mind before you begin: your parents may have told you that the "renting rule of thumb" is to spend one quarter of your income on housing. Hilarious! They didn?t know you?d decided to move to NYC! Be prepared to think about spending half of your income, and then, be pleasantly surprised if you spend less. But, when your folks told you about the old adage, "location, location, location," they were right. This will be paramount for you to make the best choice to suit your needs. After that, you must prioritize your wish list. You cannot have it all. Our goal is to help you figure out what you really want and then help you get it.

What's a Borough? Here's the first issue to think about in terms of where to live: which borough and then which neighborhood in that borough? NYC covers 300 square miles and is the home to well over nine million people. It is divided into five boroughs with very different amenities, looks, feels, accents, foods, sub cultures, etc.

The Five Boroughs. Manhattan in the middle; the Bronx to the north/northeast; Queens to the east; Brooklyn to the south/southeast and Staten Island to the south/southwest. It is important to realize that NYC might well be the last place left where you can find "small
town USA," if that?s what you?re looking for. In Manhattan alone, there are over 20 residential neighborhoods with a range of lifestyles. Each neighborhood is an independent community which operates just like a small town complete with all the necessary daily services: a local police precinct, community board, local newspaper, firehouse, public library, public school, fitness center, post office, news stand, movie theater and local merchants. Don't be surprised if your local merchants can eventually preempt your questions.

It is absolutely possible to walk around your neighborhood without a dime in your pocket and do all your errands. Most local shops have house charges and once they get to know you, all will extend credit. And, many will go out of their way to get something to you sooner than later. You will be amazed how your day-to-day life can be transformed by having an entire "staff" that helps you when in need. You might need that suit cleaned or altered in one day rather than two. Or, you forgot to buy that bottle of wine on your way home from work.

With the economic boom of the past few years, and the resulting higher rents, areas which were considered on the fringe have turned into hot residential spots. However, and important to remember, Manhattan is one of the few cities in America that is not geographically divided on purely economic lines. There are million dollar homes located next to buildings that house studio and one-bedroom rental apartments.

Finding the right neighborhood is a very personal exercise and the most important one. It is often less about cost of living and more about what area reflects your tastes, personal interests, needs and the quality of life issues most important to you. Just some of the questions you need to ask yourself: what kind of commute to work do I want? Subway, bus, taxi or do I want to walk? How important is proximity to green space? Do I prefer a more traditional, purely
residential community or a more offbeat alternative? Someplace near the bright lights and 24/7 of the city or one that quiets down after dark? How much space do I really need? Do I envision doing a lot of cooking? Or, can the kitchen be used as storage facility and I'll have dinner delivered every night? And, how much can I afford to spend? Is living in the borough of Manhattan critical to you, or put "like a New Yorker," do you feel the need to live in the center of the universe?

Manhattan is, for the majority of those moving here, the most desirable of the boroughs as it is considered the cosmopolitan and financial center of the world. And for many, they accepted the job offer in NYC so that they have the opportunity to live on the Island of Manhattan. CEO's to entry-level professionals choose to sacrifice something to have the "Manhattan Experience." But, if Manhattan doesn't do it for you, remember we have four other boroughs and even parts of New Jersey that will offer you more space and less rent.

And yes, you can even use Manhattan on the weekends and at night!

Rental Buildings

The entire building is owned by a landlord, and all of the apartments are available for lease. A rent-stabilized rental building is subject to guidelines for yearly increases. Rent stabilization was established in the late 1960’s in response to the critical housing shortages and low vacancy rates in New York City. Rent stabilization sets limits on the amount that owners can raise the rent for vacant apartments or renewals of existing leases. The guidelines for yearly increases are set in July and become effective every October. As a tenant in a rent stabilized building, one has the right to renew the lease indefinitely and the right to sublease the apartment WITH the landlord’s permission, subject to obeying all the terms of the lease.

A non-stabilized rental building is not subject to any specific guidelines. The rent level is based on a free market system subject to typical supply and demand influences. The terms of the lease are established by the landlords’ specifications and requirements. Options for renewal may be included in the lease.

TYPES OF LEASES: Rent stabilized lease or non-stabilized lease

TYPE/STYLE OF HOUSING: Hi-Rise Luxury Buildings, Pre-War Buildings, Elevator Buildings, Brownstones, Walk-ups. Rental buildings can be virtually any type of building found in New York City.

APPROVAL PROCESS: One to seven business days after submission of application.

WHEN TO BEGIN YOUR SEARCH: Not more than four weeks before you would like the date of the lease to begin. Apartments are not vacant for long, so the “window” for viewing is a small one. If you begin your search too soon, none of the apartments you saw will be available when you’re actually ready to sign a lease.

FUNDS NEEDED: First month’s rent; one (1) month’s rent for a security deposit (which is refunded upon vacating theapartment, assuming that the apartment is returned to the landlord in the same condition in which you received it, and that the terms of the lease were not violated); and, funds for a credit to be conducted. If there is a brokerage commission, it is due upon lease signing.

Cooperative Buildings

A cooperative (also known at a co-op) is a building which is owned by a corporation comprised of the tenant shareholders of the building. Each tenant shareholder owns a number of shares in the corporation associated with his or her apartment (the number of shares depends on the apartment size and floor where the apartment is located) rather than owning the apartment itself. The tenant shareholder has the right to occupy the apartment as his or her
home by holding a proprietary lease to that apartment.

Importantly, in co-ops you are subletting from an individual who in turn becomes your landlord. Rental prices are established by supply and demand and, as such, can vary widely. Co-op owners and their tenants are subject to rules and regulations set forth in the By-Laws of the corporation. An owner in a co-op must get permission from the Board of Directors of the coop to rent the apartment. When permission is granted, the lease is subject to any restrictions or qualifications placed on subleasing by the Board of Directors of the cooperative:

TYPES OF LEASES: A Co-op Sublease Agreement is the type of lease issued. The lease term is usually for one year with the option to renew based upon Board Approval. In most co-ops owners are not allowed to rent their for more than a two year period!

TYPE/STYLE OF HOUSING: All types: pre-wars, post-wars, brownstones, etc.

APPROVAL PROCESS: The approval process can take anywhere from four to six weeks….or longer. A “board package” must be submitted to the Managing Agent of the cooperative for review by the Board of Directors. The elements of the board package differ from building to building; however, in almost all cases extensive financial information is required: tax returns, financial statements with all verification, personal and business references, etc. In most coops the Board requires a meeting with the prospective tenant. Importantly, in a cooperative there is a risk that a prospective tenant can be denied acceptance by the co-op’s Board of Directors.

WHEN TO BEGIN YOUR SEARCH: Since approval can be alengthy process, you should begin your search about eight weeks before you would like the lease to begin.

FUNDS NEEDED: Fees associated with co-op leasing can range from $200 to as much as $1,000. The fees include the application processing fee, credit check, and move-in and moveout fees, which are usually refundable. The first month’s rent and one month security are due, as well. As always, the brokerage fee is payable upon lease signing, assuming a broker was used.


A condominium or Condo is a building in which the apartment is classified as “real property” and is owned by an individual. You, the tenant, lease the apartment directly from the condo owner. Rents, as in co-ops, can vary widely as they are determined by supply and demand.

TYPES OF LEASES: Condominium Sublease Agreement: Since there are usually no restrictions concerning how long an owner is allowed to rent, the length of lease can be negotiated.

TYPE/STYLE OF HOUSING: Usually hi-rise luxury buildings. Very rarely pre-wars. Condos are a relatively new phenomenon to New York City, and as a result tend to be more recent construction. However, some condos are old light-industrial loft buildings which have been converted to residential housing.

APPROVAL PROCESS: An approval process is usually required, but it is not as difficult as the co-op process. A board meeting may or may not be required. The length of time for approval varies from building to building, but it is usually not as long as the co-op approval process.

WHEN TO BEGIN YOUR SEARCH: Four to six weeks prior to desired lease date.

FUNDS NEEDED: The first month’s rent; one month rent for a security deposit; application fees; move-in/move-out fees are also necessary, and they can vary. Again, the brokerage commission is due at lease signing if a broker was used. for you.